Chapter 8: Want
“Do you want to know who you are? Don't ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” - Thomas Jefferson
“I know where I'm going and I know the truth, and I don't have to be what you want me to be. I'm free to be what I want.” - Muhammad Ali
Tifanee watched the other three tributes closely from her high perch. It had taken her quite a while to finally settle in comfortably. (A fact which left her wishing she'd worked in the orchards of District 11 prior to the games.)
The fear that had almost crippled Tifanee before had now settled into a hollow feeling in the pit of her stomach. It left her desperate to stay hidden. A part of her wished to get back down to the ground and ask to join the alliance she had just watched being formed, but forming alliances meant breaking alliances, something Tifanee wasn't sure she could do.
Time passed with Tifanne only slightly aware of it. The small alliance of three grew to one of eight, and Tifanee longed even more to go down and join the large group. Large alliances were frowned upon though, so Tifanee knew to expect interference from the gamemakers soon, which meant she should get out of the area as soon as possible. Tifanne felt even more unsettled as she searched for a discreet way to get out of the area. Eight pairs of eyes were hard to hide from, and thirteen-year-old Tifanee wasn't skilled enough to take on all of them at once.
Tiara and Troy finally stumbled across the other two careers, Alissah and Huntur, just as it was reaching nightfall. Sure enough there was a supply of food at their disposal. Even more surprising though was the addition of Mina to the group.
Tiara watched the slightly younger girl closely as she followed Troy to the tent the others had set up by a creek. “What is she doing here?” Tiara questioned harshly.
Mina threw a sharp glare at Tiara. “They've found me useful enough to let me join your alliance.”
Tiara scoffed, “And what are you good at exactly?”
“In case you haven't noticed,” Mina replied as if speaking to a five-year-old. “I'm decently intelligent. Probably more intelligent than you.”
Tiara growled and lunged forward, only to be held back by Huntur. She didn't let that stop her from voicing her opinion. “What does intelligence have to do with this? The games are about strength and survival. There's no place for your precious computers here.”
“There's always a place for knowledge, Tiara,” Mina spoke softly as she examined something small that Tiara couldn't really make out in the dark. “Don't underestimate what someone can do with a strong mind.”
“Not as much as I could do to you if I got the chance,” Tiara grumbled as she on the other side of the group from Mina. She leaned over to whisper to Alissah, “Please tell me we're getting rid of her soon.”
Alissah shrugged, “She's right. Her brain could be extremely useful to us, but don't worry. She won't be able to defend herself when we decide her time has come.”
Eight tributes. Who thought it was a good idea to gather eight tributes together? That's all that runs through Tifanee's mind as she watches the group below. Sure, it adds to their skills and protection, but it also attracts others, like the careers. Plus, it's only more people to turn against each other and who you have to kill in the end. Tifanee's still planning how to get to at least one of them as she remains perched up in her tree. If she can get one kill and escape, it'll be a small victory for her and a possible boost in sponsors. But how do you lure one away without the others noticing?
Etin came across the two older boys at the river. Unfortunately, they noticed him first.
“Hey,” Coale called out in something close to amusement. “You're the rich District 9 boy, aren't you?”
“If you can call it rich,” Etin gulped. All of the tributes were aware of the deep loyalty to the Capitol that Etin's family held, but the other two would never dare openly mock him for it when they were relying on the Capitol for help in the games.
“Compared to the rest of us non-careers,” Boston jeered. “I'd say you're rich.”
Etin just shrugged, “I suppose.” The two other boys didn't seem threatening at the moment, but Etin wasn't letting his guard down as he backed slowly away.
“You don't happen to be good with any weapons, do you?” Coale questioned.
“No,” Etin answered honestly. “I've always been more fascinated with book learning than so-called practical learning.”
“What a coincidence,” Coale drawled. “You and Boston here have something in common. Seems like I'm the only one here who never found much use in books.”
Boston seemed to be inspecting Etin carefully. “Do you want to join us?” he finally asked.
“What?” Etin spoke in disbelief. He halted himself from continuing his slow journey backwards. “Why would you want me?”
Coale shrugged. “We're not cruel or anything. If we wanted to kill you, we'd have done it by now. Boston actually wanted to ask you to join our alliance before the games. Something about 'kindred spirits' or something. I don't know, but your book smarts may be of use to us.”
“Look,” Boston sighed. “If you don't want to join us, then we'll let you go for now, but don't you think you'd be much better off with us for at least a little while?”
“Yeah,” Etin rolled his eyes. “Until you get sick of me and kill me in my sleep.”
“Neither one of us is that back-handed.” Etin was surprised at how offended Coale seemed to be by his suggestion. “When we break the alliance, it will be fair, and everyone will have an equal chance to escape.”
Somehow Etin could tell that Coale's words were sincere. “Okay. I'll join.”
He just hoped he didn't regret that decision.
Tifanee watched closely as Cassidee wandered away from the large group and tried to suppress her smile. Cassidee stripped down to her underwear before stepping into the river and submerging herself. She was clearly bathing, and Tifanee couldn't think of a better time to sneak up on her. The smart thing to do would have been to bathe with someone else at least in sight, but Cassidee apparently seemed secure enough in her large group to believe she was safe. Tifanee was going to prove her wrong.
Tifanee pulled the bow and one of the arrows she'd managed to grab from her back. She wasn't the best archer, but she'd practiced her aim well during training. She'd wanted a long distance weapon, and a bow had seemed the right choice. Now, she just had to wait for Cassidee's back to turn towards her and she could incapacitate her quickly.
With one quick motion, Tifanee released the arrow and watched it slice through Cassidee. The older girl sunk under the water with only the slightest of splashes. If the arrow didn't kill her, the river sure would. Tifanee sunk back onto the branch supporting her as images of the moment flashed vividly through her mind.